The Need for Lobbying, Getting Involved in Electoral Politics, and Faith
George Lakey is one of the foremost Quaker activists of our time and he recently toured Southern California to promote his new book Viking Economics and encourage people to become involved in mass movements and direct action to transform America's plutocracy into an egalitarian democracy like those in Scandinavian countries. I highly recommend that you read his ten-point plan. I intend to do a presentation at Pacificc Yearly Meeting in which I share this plan along with some ideas of my own in a workshop with another long-time Quaker peace activist, David Hartsough.
I agree with George that we need mass movements to bring about significant social change. But we also need to be involved in electoral politics. That’s why I’ve been active in the work of FCNL and local lobbying efforts in my city. These efforts convince me it’s essential to be involved in electoral politics and lobbying. Thanks to lobbying by groups like FCNL, we have the Iran treaty and thanks to the election of President Obama we have ACA which, despite its many flaws, has insured millions of low-income people and saved thousands of lives per year. On the other hand, electing Bush caused millions of deaths in futile wars. It matters deeply who is elected President, as we have seen clearly in the election of George Bush (vs. Gore), Obama (vs. McCain and Romney) and most recently, Trump (vs. Hillary). Imagine what our world would be like if these elections had turned out differently. That’s why it’s crucial that we support progressive elected officials who reflect our Quaker values.
The right wing has been incredibly successful in electoral politics. “Following the 2014 midterm wave, Republicans dominated state legislatures at a rate not seen since the Civil War. Democrats had hoped to rebound in 2016, but thanks in part to Trump’s resilience and widespread Republican gerrymandering, they only made modest gains. Democrats flipped four chambers, but lost control of three, leaving Republicans in charge of 68 state legislative chambers and Democrats just 31.” In addition to the state legislatures, the Republicans control all three branches of government, even though they are the minority party, lost the popular vote for the presidency by three millions votes, and have the least popular president in US history. See Republican take over of state government
The majority of American support progressive ideas, as evidenced by polls and their enthusiasm for Bernie Sander’s platform. See http://www.salon.com/2017/01/14/americans-overwhelmingly-support-bernie-sanders-economic-policies-so-howd-we-end-up-here/. Progressives need to learn how win in electoral politics at the local, state, and national level, or our mass demonstrations won’t bring about the changes most Americans want. Without a legislative agenda, our mass movements will be ignored or crushed the way the Occupy movement was crushed. We must win back our government democratically while we still have an opportunity to do so.
The Civil Rights movement was successful because it combined a mass movement with a careful strategy to pass legislation like the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Act, and the Fair Housing Act. If Lyndon Johnson had not been elected, and if Dr. King had not pressured him, these gains would not have happened.
I am thrilled to see many people becoming involved in lobbying. This is a Quaker tradition going back to the time of George Fox and early Friends. Groups like FCNL, the Citizen Climate Lobby and others are perfecting this art and teaching others how to practice it. Many are eager to learn how to become citizen lobbyists (as opposed to corporate lobbyists) and are making a significant difference. We need to become involved in these efforts as well as in electoral politics.
Prayer and the Interfaith Movement: Since we are a Religious Society of Friends, it is important to remember the power of prayer and spiritual discipline. The Civil Rights movement was shaped and guided by the black church and its values. Gandhian nonviolence involved spiritual discipline. Most mass movements in our country were successful in part because of religious faith and the support of religious leaders from various faiths.
I have found tremendous spiritual support and encouragement in the interfaith peace movement. People of faith coming together to work for justice and peace have moral authority and power that sway politicians and the general public in ways that secular activists cannot. I also find strength and inspiration in the interfaith movement. It feeds my soul and inspires me to see Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and people of conscience working together.One of the most successful nonviolent movements in recent times was the amazing effort by women in Liberia to overthrow the war lords and install an elected woman leader. This successful movement involved Muslim and Christian women who used the power of prayer as well as strategies of nonviolence. I encourage you to watch the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” that describes how the women of Liberia transformed their war-ravaged society. This movement is also an important reminder that women have far greater power than most people think. The wisdom and courage of women as well as the power of prayer are absolutely crucial in our effort to overcome authoritarianism, racism and militarism and create a genuine democracy in our country